By Laura Enock
On January 1, 2012, the board of Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union approved developing a Facebook presence for the credit union and has experienced some tremendous successes—as well as some quiet spells—in their first year. Jason Cuoco, Marketing Director at Greater Chautauqua, shared some of his best practices, trials and errors, and a few of his exceptional ideas with Credit Union Business.
“We ran our first promotion in February, 2012,” Cuoco explained, “and started getting members to like our page by offering a drawing that included a drawing with a chance to win a $50 gift card.” In the first month the credit union hit 169 likes by running this one promotion. Members learned about the $50 gift card drawing from tellers as well as from signage placed in branch lobbies but, for the most part, the campaign’s success was fueled by word of mouth. For the hard cost of just $50, the Facebook page was quickly launched. Not bad for the first month out!
Once the promotion ended, however, things quieted down. Members continued to like the credit union’s Facebook page, but at a much slower rate. Now what? Without a solid game plan in place, things remained quiet for the next few months. “We should have developed an ongoing marketing plan—other than simply mentioning our Facebook presence in all our member communications—before launching,” Cuoco concedes.
Many credit unions find themselves in this position. A certain amount of energy and excitement generally accompanies any new marketing campaign and Social media promotions are often launched with a contest to help them get off the ground. Of course this isn’t enough to last much beyond the initial excitement or after the contest ends. Sometimes it is only after all the dust has settled that you realize you don’t have a viable long-term plan in place to sustain growth.
In October 2012 Cuoco decided to relaunch Greater Chautauqua’s Facebook page. “This time, we were determined to do it right.” Credit goes to Cuoco for acknowledging that they had initially neglected to develop any plan for sustained growth and for deciding to take their launch back to the drawing board in order to design a solution.
“The idea for a solution came to me at home,” Cuoco says. “My six-year-old son wanted to play board games with me and, being a great dad, I said, ‘sure’. I was thinking about how he must have a million games in his closet when it clicked: We should figure how to turn a board game into an online game that members could play on our Facebook page.”
Before investing any money in developing an on-line game, Cuoco hosted an on-line survey in which he asked his members what games they were interested in playing. Bingo came most up often. How could they play Bingo on Facebook?
Once Cuoco drew up a terms and conditions document and had purchased 4,500 bingo cards he was set to go. Each member received two Bingo cards and a printed form detailing the game’s terms and conditions. Prizes included a $50 award for the first person to redeem a card in each of the credit union’s four branches. Every winning card qualified members to enter one big drawing for the grand prize of a Kindle Fire.
The credit union posted one bingo number each morning and another every afternoon, on every weekday in October. “We received so much feedback,” Cuoco said. “After the first week, we asked members how they’re doing with the game, and we got 48 comments and 61 likes, just from that one post!” Greater Chautauqua started what was to become a very popular bingo game.
Cuoco thinks the reason this campaign went so viral was because members had to check the numbers on Facebook; there was no other way to see the bingo numbers. Occasionally, a member would come in to the branch and ask for the numbers but was told—politely but firmly—that the only way to get the number was by checking on Facebook. “After all, it’s a Facebook promotion,” Cuoco pointed out.
On October 1st, the credit union had a total of 212 likes. For the relaunch, the credit union set a goal of 500 likes by the end of October. The planning committee thought that goal was too aggressive and didn’t expect to meet it. Yet by the end of October, the credit union had a whopping 539 likes—more than double their previous total—in just 30 days, which exceeded their supposedly aggressive goal. Today, the credit union has 550 likes.
Yes, very few additional likes came in once the October promotion ended and it became clear that the only way to grow a Facebook presence is to nurture it. And in order to continue growing their Facebook likes, the credit union will begin rolling out a new promotion on February 1, 2013.
While using Facebook, the credit union learned that Facebook establishes timeline postings according to how often you navigate different pages, which means fans won’t even see your page if it isn’t viewed often enough. So, just because you are posting information doesn’t mean members will see it. Cuoco has an idea for fixing this and will use social media content that’s available to credit unions daily, free of charge, at Facebook.com/credituniontoolbox.
Prior to October the credit union was getting 20-30 hits per post. After the Bingo promotion, every post got 200-300 hits, which is an astonishing 600% increase. Additionally, there’s been a 14,000% increase on the virality of the page, which measures the amount of interaction on your page and among friends of fans. That means Facebook is counting two generations of fans. Virality is a measure of the possibility of what can happen with that post. At this point, the credit union has a viral reach of 92,000 people: all the credit union’s friends, and all the friends of those friends.
A Bingo game is really nice, but did the credit union realize more tangible results?
Absolutely. For one thing, the Facebook page has become more interactive. In addition to checking for Bingo numbers, members started asking questions about loan programs and home banking services. Once the credit union added an enhanced security feature, comments started coming in and the credit union was able to take part in the conversation. Greater Chautauqua instantly deals with each issue—whether it’s an opportunity or a problem—the moment it comes up, an ideal situation that is a direct result of having a well-managed Facebook page.
Now that the Bingo campaign has ended, the credit union is struggling with some downward trending based on Facebook statistics. “People don’t stay in touch with us as much when there’s no promotional campaign,” Cuoco says, “So we’re starting to think about different types of content like the ugly sweater contest we ran during the holidays.”
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only marketing platform or function at the credit union and, even though it was so successful, there is a limit to how much time they can spend on it. Cuoco leads all of the CU’s other marketing as well and oversees all of their graphic design. Acknowledging this reality, the credit union has opted to devote specific months of the year to social media, and has approved the February campaign.
The campaign is simple: Each week, the credit union will pick a topic, such as favorite vacation destination, favorite movie, or where to get the best local pizza. Some topics are tied into finance, but not all. Every time someone posts to the page, they’re entered into a monthly giveaway and qualify for a prize. Since there will be four weeks of questions, members can enter multiple times.
The CU anticipates that member responses to this campaign will boost interest in their Facebook page. Then, the credit union’s posts will hit member timelines because they’re interacting with the CU page. At this point, Cuoco is not looking for more likes, or ROI, but to interact with members and appear on their timelines. “It’ll take just ten minutes on a Monday morning,” Cuoco explains. The goal: rebuild communications and relationships, so when something else is posted, members will respond.
Two other promotions the credit union is working on are an ad promo for members, and a photo contest with a unique twist. Whenever a member closes on a car loan, for example, the credit union will ask them to take a picture of their new car and post it to their own Facebook page with the title: “Bought my new car through Greater Chautauqua FCU!” and tag the credit union in the photo. Members who do so are entered into a drawing for a grand prize, such as a Wii system, tablet device or something similar. Another example might be to ask members who purchase an ATV through the credit union to post a picture with the title “Enjoying our new ATV thanks to Greater Chautauqua FCU”. Given its higher value, the grand prize will be awarded quarterly.
The one thing Cuoco would do differently if he could start again would be to have a master game plan before jumping in. “We’ve found that it’s imperative to have a master plan before opening a Facebook page,” he says. “Nothing looks worse than a Facebook page that’s neglected. It is better to not have one at all.” With Facebook, Cuoco says, you can either look really good, or really bad.
“We have plans for everything—our chapter golf tournament, youth week, and annual meeting—but if there’s no plan for Facebook, it will be neglected,” Cuoco says. He’s attended many webinars since starting the Facebook page, and finds that social media comes up a lot. Much of the discussion assumes you have a budget and a staff. But Cuoco’s credit union has $50 million in assets and serves 10,000 members. Like many credit unions, he doesn’t have a full marketing staff.
And that’s what makes Cuoco’s success all the more impressive: It proves that you can get big results on a small budget. Even if you’re a one-man (or woman) marketing shop, you can still be, well, in the game!
Laura Enock, Managing Editor of Credit Union Toolbox and founder of CUcontent.com, provides credit unions nation-wide with content for their websites, newsletters, email marketing and social media communications. Enock moderates the popular CreditUnionToolbox webinars on best practices and provides individual credit unions with social media, marketing, and PR support on a consulting basis. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CUtoolbox.